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Friday, January 20, 2017

Sultry Scottsdale

In a way, it's sad that the Valley of the Sun can't learn from the mistakes of the giant to the west. Every time we come here, vast tracts that used to be empty desert are now covered with houses and shopping centers. I'd love to say the area has stopped expanding but that's not happening anytime soon.

Still, it's nice to come to Scottsdale for a getaway now and then.

The first time we came here a quarter century ago, the spot we're at now was a saguaro covered desert with the occasional millionaire's mansion or ranch. A dirt road would have been the rule rather than the exception. Now, the 101 Loop Freeway features daily traffic jams leading to thousands of homes and dozens of shopping centers.

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A ways beyond the north end of the Scottsdale airport runway is our hotel for this trip, Marriott's McDowell Mountains Resort, located on the TPC Champions Golf Course. The room is a 2-room suite with a roll-in shower, dual flat screen TVs, a fridge, wet bar, and one robe...Letty will get to use that.

Outside is a pool and spa, both with lifts, and the previously mentioned golf course. It's pretty much all wheelchair accessible but, unless you use the valet, the parking is a bit of a walk. A restaurant, bar, and mini-store complete the lobby. There are complementary PCs and free wifi in the lobby but you'll pay $12.95 a day in your room to use it...we got around this by using my iPhone as a hot spot.

After unpacking, we retreat to the large balcony by a fireplace and enjoy a drink overlooking the golf course and pools before retiring to our room for the night.

The Good Egg is a local chain of restaurants in the Phoenix area. I think you can guess what their specialty is.

We had a delicious breakfast, saw a beautiful Rolls Royce parked outside the window by our table, and found out from the owner that this was the second car built at the factory in 1961.

"I can't even get the Rolls Royce dealer here in town to maintain it," he lamented.

Seems like he might be good with a wrench, though.

A few miles away, though still in the same town, we take a stroll through Old Scottsdale...the center of town and maintained like it was when the city was more of a village.

A volunteer asks if he can show me where I might find something but I know where we're headed, so instead he shows us his perfectly restored 1951 Dodge truck. It is a beauty.

Carrying on, we come to the destination...very popular here in the extreme summer temperatures...the Sugar Bowl.

Scottsdale's classic ice cream parlor, painted up in pink and white, makes a great place to cool off with an icy dessert.

You can also peruse the custom "Family Circle" cartoons that loyal customer Bil Keane drew for them. This was where he'd take his family for a treat.

After some cookies 'n cream covered with caramel, we hit the road to rest and relax at the hotel until dinnertime.

The temperature, at around 70 degrees, tempts us to go into the pool and try those lifts, but we decide to wait a day for that. Tonight, instead, we're heading north thirty minutes past Carefree to Cave Creek where the residents truly seem to live a care free life.

We want to have a cowboy steak. It's an increasingly rare thing to find. You can pay an arm and a leg to go to Rawhide, a western themed amusement park which does make a darn good steak; go to Pinnacle Peak, which we have back home; or find someplace else. We look hard and some places that are called "cowboy steakhouses" must figure burgers are steaks because that's the only thing they sell.

Cave Creek, still a dusty cowboy town (a recent tied election was settled with a flip of a coin), fits the bill tonight. We're going to Harold's Corral, a very large dining room with the steaks we came for.

While Letty goes for the prime rib special, I have the ribeye with a selection of beer tasters. It is very good, very savory, and satisfies our need for this special "out west" style of dinner for us.

Tummies sated, it's time to hit the hay and we'll continue this tomorrow as we head out for a hike.

Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, January 16, 2017

HUNGRY? The Great Bakersfield Food Tour.

“Try to stay hungry.”

“I just need a piece of bread or something…”

“I know, but just don’t go overboard…you’ll need your appetite.”

Watch the Video!

So goes the back and forth between my wife and I as we head on across the Tejon Pass, just north of Los Angeles. It’s been a long Lent and now we’re ready to break it. It’s time for a food-centered trip to one of the great, undiscovered food destinations in California…Bakersfield.

It’s mid April as we have an easy drive over the Grapevine. Sunny and warm, it’s the perfect weather for the wildflowers that paint the hillsides above Gorman. Still early for them, they’re just starting the show. Come here at the beginning of May and it should be spectacular.

First up, a snack to hold my wife and son over until dinner. Dewar’s has been in business here over a century making premium ice cream and candy. It’s great, delicious fun but the original location, with it’s tight spaces, is hard on a wheelchair. Fortunately, their new location is just about perfect.

West of the 99 on Rosedale Highway, just past the giant shopping center where WalMart is, you’ll find the new Dewar’s outpost just off of the corner with Callaway Drive. Not only a great, spacious ice cream parlor, you’ll find a museum of Dewar’s…and Bakersfield…history featuring ice cream making implements going back a century and a guitar given to them by local legend Buck Owens that Letty is standing in front of in that picture up above.

Apart from the giant tour buses blocking the handicapped spaces in the parking lot, check-in goes smooth at the Springhill Suites. Apparently, dozens of college swimmers here for a meet will be surrounding us tonight. Pray for us…

Unpacked and very hungry, we head out for our first meal of the weekend.

Bakersfield has a reputation for being gritty. It’s not a completely undeserved one. Walking the streets of downtown, you’ll have no problem spotting the homeless and others who are down on their luck. The blocks just east of downtown are dotted with halfway houses and rehab centers.

The city also is home to some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet and there’s a renaissance just over the next hump. New restaurants, art galleries, nightclubs are edging into spaces next to the old guard, Bakersfield classics. Come downtown on a Friday or Saturday night and the place is alive.

This is where we come for our Friday night dinner to Uricchio’s Trattoria one block west of Chester Avenue on 17th Street.

We spend a lot of time in this city…a lot. Once we found out the charms and hidden beauty of Bakersfield, we fell in love with it and refer to our frequent stays at the Marriott here as our “timeshare.” Each visit, we try to find at least one new thing to try. This weekend it’s Uricchio’s.

Opened in 1995 by Nick Uricchio, his son Steve, and chef Raphael Hernandez, Uricchio’s serves high-end Italian cuisine in an updated space at very reasonable prices.

At the beginning of dinner service…5:00…we’re able to squeak in without a reservation. The server is very friendly and extremely knowledgeable about the food and the building itself. We notice that some of the windows, most etched with fine detail, have been replaced by plain glass.

Our server tells us that due the historic nature of the building, no one can create windows like that anymore so when one breaks, it can only be replaced by plain glass.

The wine is poured and warm, soft bread is served. Not too long afterward, our entrées appear.

Letty has the linguini pescadora which has seemingly every critter in the ocean swimming in its light marinara sauce. It is pronounced heavenly.

Tim has the manicotti, delicious crepe tubes filled with ricotta and topped with melted mozzarella. He opts to have his covered in meat sauce.  Again, a perfect dish with a nice bold taste to go with our bottle of Syrah.

I have a sublime veal saltimbocca with parmesan potatoes and a delicious vegetable medley on the side. I appreciate the restaurant that tries this dish and love the ones that get it right. Uricchio’s is one of the best I’ve had.

Each entrée is also nicely south of $20.

One meal down, we head back to the hotel to let the food digest and to watch our Angels beat up on the Orioles.

Did I mention we were sharing the hotel with hordes of college swimmers? Luckily, it only took one request to get them to stop screaming in the halls and after bedtime, they were quiet as mice. In the morning, however, these ravenous athletes decimated the hotel’s breakfast bar leaving us with just a cup of yogurt and a bagel.

Oh well, they’ll be checking out today and it’ll be nice, quiet, and empty at the Springhill Suites tonight.

Armed with whatever calories we could find this morning and with quite a few still hanging around from last night, we head south of town to check out another new site for this trip…the Wind Wolves Preserve, nestled up against the backside of the San Gabriel Mountains south of town.

Run by The Wildlands Conservancy, this preserve was purchased from the Tejon Ranch and contains some prime California Condor territory as well as ancient grasslands and canyons.

We don’t have time to go on a long hike and Tim is feeling some ill effects from the heat today so we keep near to the visitor’s center and hang out with a couple of volunteers there looking for birds and any other critters we can find.

About a hundred cliff swallows are flitting about, packing mud under the eaves of the building for nests.

A Bullock’s oriole sips water from a nearby pond before buzzing us up on the balcony.

Tim and I find a bee hive in the roof…hey, where’d Tim go?…as I see the wheelchair flying as far away from the bees as possible.

Some light hiking around the area reveals an algae filled pond with thousands of tadpoles waiting to become frogs. Out on the grasslands, larks sing relentlessly.

It’s back to Bakersfield where the hunger is starting to reassert itself. 5:30 and time for the next stop on our food adventure.  This time, it’s an old friend…Benji’s.

Benji’s is one of Bakersfield’s famed Basque restaurants.  On the edge of one of the city’s oil field no man’s lands, it occupies a corner on Rosedale Highway between an oil rig business and an auction.

Long home to shepherds, the area is known for this unique style of dining. The most famous of the city’s Basque restaurants is Noriega’s, an old boardinghouse in the old downtown area east of the current city center. Most people know it as the place where everybody sits at long tables, passing dishes back and forth family style.

At Benji’s, you sit at your own table but you still share the dishes among you, and what dishes they are! Seating is prompt. The dining room opens at 5:30 and not a minute before, however the bar is open and you’re welcome to enjoy a soothing glass of wine or a strongly mixed picon punch before your meal.

Once seated, your server will take your drink order then give you a basket of crusty French bread, accompanied by their spicy, warm salsa and butter.

A big tureen of thin, vegetable soup is next, served with a plate of beans used to thicken it up. It’s all made from scratch and is incredibly delicious…much more than the thin broth would indicate.

The salad…another large bowl to be shared by all…arrives. In all of my life, I have never had a salad and house dressing better than they make here at Benji’s. Fresh produce, along with a plate of ripe tomatoes and onions, and their creamy house dressing make this a dish I could make a meal of.

Along with the salad course comes the pickled cow’s tongue. If you’ve never had it, what a treat you’re missing. Beefy and covered in a slightly tart sauce, this delicacy will have you asking for more.

Next comes the main course, with green beans and fries, your entrée is served. That is a ton of food so we do what most people do now and order one entrée with the rest of us getting the “set up.” The set up is the entire meal as described above, less the entrée. Our one entrée tonight is a big, medium rare rib eye steak that we cut into thirds and share.

We are completely, satisfyingly stuffed. Dinners here are also reasonable, most entrées between $14 and $20 with a set up going for $13.95.

Dinner over, we head to the other side of the freeway to Sam Lynn Ballpark and spend the evening watching the local minor league team, the Bakersfield Blaze, win over the San Jose Giants.

The Blaze is now affiliated with the Cincinatti Reds and we get to see a true superstar, Ken Griffey, Sr., take the field as he is now managing this team.

Game over, it’s back to a very quiet and empty hotel to sleep off the day.

Sunday morning dawns and we pack up to get ready for the trip home. After checking out, we head across the street to Costco to gas up, down the street to Cruz Thru Car Wash to get the dust and bugs off of the van, and then to the food highlight of any trip to Bakersfield for us.

Back across town, on a quiet side street off of busy Union Avenue, sits the little neon green building that makes the best food in the world. No longer visible to customers since it’s been moved back in the kitchen, marinated pieces of pork slowly spin on a vertical spit known as a trompo. A large onion sits on top of the stack as the heat makes the juice trickle down the side as it all slowly cooks.

The cook takes a tortilla, quickly fries it on the lard coated flat top. A sharp knife is used to carve the cooked pieces of meat off of the trompo and placed into the tortilla. This shepherd’s style of Mexican pork is known as al pastor and no one does it better than Los Tacos de Huicho, the little taco stand that could, sitting here in this bright green building in the rundown neighborhood east of downtown.

We have been known to drive out of our way to make it a meal at this place and wouldn’t think twice about the two hour drive from L.A. just to have some.

The taco comes plain, meat only, on the tortilla and you finish it off at the condiment bar next to the counter. Here, you’ll find chopped onions, cilantro, pickled and fresh radishes, deep fried jalapeño peppers, green salsa, red salsa, and…the star of the bar…their absolutely breathtaking creamy, spicy, guacamole. For me and the al pastor, it’s onions, cilantro, their fiery hot red salsa, and the guacamole.

That’s one heck of a taco for only 99 cents.

In addition, their burritos, sopes, and other dishes called gringas and mulas, are very good. There is not a bad thing on the menu here. One item I get that grosses a lot of my friends out are the tripas tacos…intestines fried to a cruncy bite wrapped in a tortilla. It is another taste I’d drive two hours for.

For some reason, this little Mexican restaurant in Bakersfield also makes some of the best seasoned French fries you’ll ever find.

This will pretty much be all the food we need today…two burritos (one chile verde, the other bean and cheese), two tripas tacos, two tacos al pastor, two carne asada sopes, and an order of fries.

Filled to the brim, it’s back on the 99, heading for home already making plans for the next time.

Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, January 15, 2017

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: The LA Times Tries to Catch Up to The World on Wheels

The Los Angeles Times finally published their version of the Gold Line Pub Crawl this week but we here at The World on Wheels beat them to the punch months ago with not one but two Gold Line Pub Crawls.

As usual, ours is much more in depth and includes video of our misbegotten adventures. These are also guaranteed to be wheelchair accessible, too.  Click on the links below for all the fun.

Gold Line Pub Crawl Version 1.0

Gold Line Pub Crawl Version 2.0



Friday, January 13, 2017

America's Breadbasket - California's Central Valley: Tulare County

Upon learning that we’d be going to one of his favorite restaurants in the world while he was at camp, Tim was not a happy camper. “Don’t worry,” I told him, “the weekend after you get back is a three day weekend…let’s go up there when you get home.”

Of course, if you followed our trip without Tim to Paso Robles, you’ll know that we had to make an emergency trip to pick him up because he got sick.  And sick he was for a couple of days.  We didn’t know if he’d be well enough by the weekend to go, but thankfully he did get better and off we went.

Watch the video!

The restaurant, as many of you who know us will already guess, is the wonderful Los Tacos de Huicho in Bakersfield, California which sits at the southern end of the San Joaquin, or Central, Valley.

Yes, we did go to Huicho’s and, yes, the food was as absolutely delicious as always, but this trip is not about Huicho’s or even one of our favorite destinations, Bakersfield, all that much.
After dinner, it’s back on the 99 north to our next stop about an hour’s north…the Charter Inn and Suites in Tulare.  The hotel, which sits adjacent to the freeway as Prosperity Avenue, is about the best hotel I know of in the Central Valley along the 99 corridor.
See More California Food Destinations in our Kindle E-Book!

Big, spacious rooms with a great hot breakfast buffet.  Monday through Wednesday, they also include dinner. There’s a lending library in the lobby, a nice pool area with spa, a patio area with a barbecue, and a very good staff.
Our room was a king size suite. Not technically accessible but at least as accessible as many other “handicap” rooms we’ve stayed in that didn’t feature a roll-in shower.  Wide access areas for the wheelchair, comfortable bed, a queen size sofabed, a large bathtub which more than accommodated our bath chair, and good wifi access.  There are even robes in the closet.  All for around $90 – 100 per night.
The Central Valley is the biggest agricultural area in the country. It’s not the California of beaches and palm trees, but plays a vital role in providing you with the food on your table. This morning, we’ll see some of that first hand.

After breakfast, it’s over to nearby Visalia where a farmers market sets up in the local Sears parking lot each Saturday.  It’s jammed packed with produce, cheeses, eggs, and more.  It’s not set up like a lot of farmers markets back home where there are more craft vendors and kiddie rides than there are farmers.  Here, while there are a couple of non-food vendors, it’s all about the food.
And the food is amazingly good. Sweet donut peaches, large red grapes, figs, oranges, heirloom tomatoes, zucchini bigger than my arm, and many items that, frankly, I have no clue what they are but they look delicious.
Our plan is to load up on all the fresh produce we can, keep it in our air conditioned hotel room, and then pack on ice for the trip home in the hot, valley summer heat.  It worked like a charm and we dined like royalty on all that farm-fresh produce for a couple of weeks.
Back at the hotel, we pack the most perishable items into the small in-room fridge, and turn the a/c up for the rest.  We have a nice swim in the pool and then head over to Hanford, which is about 15 miles west of us.
It’s the 4th of July weekend and the temps are over the century mark.  In downtown Hanford, it’s 106 degrees. Not a problem.

The main reason we’re here in this beautiful little town is ice cream. One of the state’s…and probably the country’s…great, classic ice cream parlors sits across the street from the town’s plaza.  We’re talking about Superior Dairy.
In this location over 80 years, Superior is a gorgeous, small town ice cream emporium with brass chandeliers, pink booths and counter stools, and some of the most generous portions of frozen cream you’ll ever see.

Letty has just one scoop of rocky road.

Tim and I share two scoops of cookies and cream, covered with a rich caramel sauce and whipped cream.  Look at those two pictures.  That is quality ice cream served in gigantic portions.  Together, that’s about $7 worth of dessert.

Superior is also known for their S-O-S (Superior Oversized Sundae) sundae, pictured above, a gargantuan banana split that can easily feed four or more.

The cold ice cream cools us down nicely from the furnace outside. We walk across the street to the shady park that houses some beautifully restored buildings…the Municipal Auditorium, the Veteran’s Memorial Hall, and the old courthouse…across the street from an equally impressive restored Fox Theater.
It’s shady, with a cool fountain, a couple of snack stand, and lots of cool grass to play or lay on.  We see this little parakeet, probably someone’s escaped pet, happily chewing on stalks of grass.
In the evening, it’s back over to Visalia to visit the Rawhide.

Just south of Visalia’s great and walkable downtown is Recreation Park, an old minor league stadium. The team, going through lots of names over its 65 year history, is currently affiliated with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Rawhide are the Diamondbacks single A team playing in the California League.
In 2009, the stadium was renovated with new club level and grandstand down the right field/first base line. There are wheelchair seats along this area, where we sat, and also in the stands along the left field line.  There are a couple of accessible seats behind home plate about six rows back, but they’re behind an aisle and not too desirable.

Access to the level we sat at was via a slow, creaky lift that had to be repaired before we could use it…you can read more about in our stadium review.
At the game, it was a salute to military night with veteran’s throwing out the first pitch, different branches being honored each inning…i.e., one inning Navy active members and veterans were asked to stand up so the audience could applaud their service…another veteran singing God Bless America during the 7th inning stretch, and…most poignant of all…cadets setting and serving a dinner to an empty table in front of the mound to POWs and MIAs who should be there but are not.
The game itself was pretty exciting with the Rawhide easily handling the visiting Lake Elsinore Storm…even though the PA announcer called them the Inland Empire 66ers for two innings before he caught on.
The food was miserable and delicious.  The miserable was the Italian sausage that Letty had, the delicious was the incredibly good bratwurst that I got to replace it from a grill near our seats. A very good selection of beer, including local microbrews, topped the concession selections.
All in all, a very fun game with just a couple of glitches. Visalia’s a very fun place to be.
In the morning, we checked out, shopped the outlet mall behind our hotel, and moved south to Bakersfield. Here we checked in to the Marriott Springhill Suites, which is pretty much our vacation condo these days with all the time we spend in this town.
We wanted to take one more night and go to Huicho’s one more time.  Before that, though, we went to our favorite bar. I’m a fan of the margarita and love when one is made right. Here in Bakersfield is one of the best.

Mexicali, on 18th Street on the eastern edge of downtown along Mill Creek, makes the best I’ve had. Their house margarita made from scratch is a tarty little piece of heaven. Their Cadillac margarita takes what is the best plain margarita I’ve had up several notches on the taste scale. It is the nectar of the gods.
Along with the great drinks, the bar here is so comfortable and the people so friendly that it feels like home, having drinks with some old friends.  A truly classic, great, and dark bar.
On the morning of the 4th, after a fitful night of sleep as some other rude guests were shooting off firecrackers in the parking lot (necessitating many calls to security) in the middle of the night, we check out and head to Huichos. (Note…after complaining at checkout, the hotel manager knocked our rate down to $50).
On Friday, the people at Huichos told us they would be open on the 4th.  Between then and now, someone must have changed their mind because now they’re closed. Darn!
We’d saved up our appetite for this and were now disappointed.  Back in downtown, we were looking for somewhere…pretty much anywhere…that would be open on this holiday.  I see a burger stand with people working out back so I pull in.
Juicy Burger is a Five Guys knockoff located on 24th and  M Streets, in the same building as the University of La Verne’s Bakersfield satellite campus.  It looks just like Five Guys when you walk in and has a very similar menu.  It also has both Coke and Pepsi machines, so Coke and Pepsi fans should all be happy here.
We order some burgers and fries, not really expecting much.
The burgers were amazingly good. Juicy, cooked to perfection, with great, tasty produce.  The fries were also good, not served in quite the heaps that Five Guys does, but the burgers were the star of the show here…incredible!
The staff here was very friendly and competent.  Each meal comes with a cookie but the counter person also gave me one to sample while we waited for our food.  Great food, great service, and fast food pricing.  What more could you want?  We now have another very good place to eat on our ever-growing and long Bakersfield food list…seriously, this is such a good food city.  Come here for that if nothing else.
I hunted down the manager and let her know just how much I loved this place.
Our appetites nicely sated, our disappointment at missing Huichos subsiding, we climb into the van to make that one last trip over the Grapevine to head back home.

Copyright 2011- Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Monday, January 9, 2017

2016 Highlights and Lowlights

As the sun sets on 2016, we look back.

Not our busiest travel year but we still managed to hit the travel trail a bit last year, including to major international destinations. Gotta get our money's worth for those passports, you know...

HOTELS - One of the best hotels we've ever had the pleasure of staying in...and we've stayed in many...was the absolutely wonderful Hilton Prague. From the moment we stepped in the door, to the duty manager showing us a selection of rooms we could choose from, accessible bathing equipment we could choose from, very comfortable beds, quiet room with good view, great location, top-notch service from beginning to end, this was the best hotel we stayed in last year. (NOTE: This is not to be confused with the Hilton Old Town Prague a few blocks away)

Another nod to the great RIU Palace Hotel in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. The RIU's comfort, service, and amenities are top-notch. Stay in one if you ever get a chance.

We didn't stay in any really bad hotels this year but the Oxford Suites in Redding did not live up to expecations, especially as we've stayed in some very nice examples of the chain in Chico and Pismo Beach, California.  The Novotel Schwabing in Munich, Germany was also not as nice as we'd hoped it to be.

AIRLINES - Two this year, Alaska Airlines to Costa Rica provided outstanding service, comfort, on-time service, of all...price.  American (with a leg by British Airways) provided us with very good service over some very long hauls across the Atlantic. Again, no bad flight hassles due to airlines, which can be pretty rare.  On the other hand...

AIRPORTS - Munich and Liberia, Costa Rica airports let us down this year.  From waiting hours with no seating and no air conditioning tropical Daniel Odubor Quiros Airport to the lack of amenities in the older part of Franz Josef Strauss Airport (especially compared to the really excellent new terminal) was a huge letdown. Berlin's Tegel Airport wasn't much better.

RENTAL CAR - A huge raspberry for Alamo Rent-A-Car in Costa Rica for blatantly trying to rip off every customer to the tune of an extra $600 for insurance and making the check-in process as miserable and long as can be. Even when you showed written proof of extensive car insurance, valid in Costa Rica, that could cover everything imaginable, you are called a liar to your face and told no American insurance is valid there (which we found is not true). On top of that, you're stuck at their depot in the middle of nowhere with a two-mile walk back to the airport...unless you want to pay $35 per person to take their shuttle bus back. A true den of vipers there, taxis are much more honest, affordable, and even wheelchair accessible there. Skip the rental car in Costa Rica, it will truly ruin your trip.

On the other hand, Hertz in Berlin and Munich were very professional, friendly, and efficient in the handling of our vehicle there.

FOOD - We had some outstanding meals this year starting with a very memorable meal of pork knuckle and pirogies at Zajasd Lesny, a 24-hour truck stop diner in the southwest corner of Poland.

The Alte Heide biergarten had the best food in Munich with its pork Cordon Bleu, German meatloaf, and steak.

Again, Taste in the Motherlode town of Plymouth in California produced a wonderful dinner.

DESTINATIONS - We've cast our shadows on the beaches and jungles of Costa Rica; the remains of the Berlin Wall; the cobblestones of Prague; the truck stops of Poland; the biergartens of Munich; the waters and trees of Redding, California, along with the state's Motherlode country.

Costa Rica is much more accessible than I thought it would be and there are some great adventures to be had. Still, the beaches left something to be desired and I really felt I had to keep a good grip on my wallet for the next rip-off that could be around the next corner.  It was nice but not as nice as I'd imagined it would be.

Redding, and the area around it, is beautiful but a little on the quiet side.

Prague was too crowded and full of tourists to be really enjoyable but the residents of that old city are very friendly and accomodating to visitors like us.

Munich has been, and will always be, one of our favorite cities in the world to visit. Wouldn't even mind living there.

But this year's most enjoyable destination was the slightly grungy, sometimes dangerous feeling, always lively, at times drop-dead-gorgeous, and extremely drenched with history, Berlin. I cannot wait to come here again.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, January 8, 2017

THE COCKTAIL HOUR - Paso Robles Beer Tasting

Last week, we tasted the wines. This week, it's something else altogether. While the Paso Robles area is justifiably famous for its vineyards, wineries, and wine, one of America's most popular microbreweries resides here.  Firestone Walker, makers of the Double Barrel Ale (DBA) has a decent sized operation south of town.

They also have a restaurant to the south in Buellton, but we're just here to taste the beers.

Watch the Video!

Here at the brewery, they have a nice tasting room with 14 taps (just installed the day before we were here). For $6 you can taste 4 of their brews.


We taste the DBA, Solace...a wheat beer, a hefeweizen, a porter, a honey blonde, and IPA, and a red ale.  While we enjoyed the DBA, Solace, and the honey blonde, the rest were average to a bit heavy for us.

So we're kind of indifferent to Firestone Walker. The beers in Denver were much better as was Sierra Nevada up north in Chico, which also serves a vast variety of tastes at no charge...but wait...what's that across the street?

Watch the video above as we find a very nice ringer, right across the street from the FW premises.